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Hope

Leading through Crisis

At the time of writing this blog, most of the developed world have been quarantined from the novel Covid-19 pandemic. The whole world that never slept, bristling with activity across the oceans and continents have been gripped by this deadly virus since it came in the news in November 2019, when it first originated in Wuhan, China. Despite a warning provided then that this flu is on its way to infect the world, we can see countries across the world scrambling today to shut down all non-essential services, schools, universities, airports – locking down everything, forcing people to work from home, canceling examinations, etc. Even the voice of reason – God from Twitter (David Javerbaum, a former Daily Show writer) clearly explained with a sense of urgency what needed to happen.

How then do you lead during this periods of duress? How do you shut down entire modern societies and force generations of people to strictly stay inside and arrest the compounding spread of this pandemic? If you read the earlier pandemics including the Spanish flu of 1918 which abruptly ended the first world war and wiped out 5% of the known human population at that time, 50-100 million people, you do not get any solace. All the measures that have been announced to combat the Covid-19 duress including washing hands, self quarantines and shutting down cities were lessons learned from the Spanish flu. It is said that during the Spanish flu, while the adults walked around wearing masks, children skipped rope to this rhyme:

I had a little bird
Its name was Enza
I opened a window
And In-flu-enza.

Children rhyme

To this day, no one knows why the Spanish flu ever happened, no one knows where it originated and after claiming a bloody toll, it simply vanished.

It is not easy to stop the juggernaut that is the 24x7x365 world which we are a part of. However about hundred years later we see that the Covid-19 virus has ravaged through more than 128 countries (and still counting) with a lethality rate approaching 5%. This crisis is truly unlike anything that the post Second World War generation has seen so far. It has finally managed to completely ‘stop’ the world.

It is an interesting challenge for any leadership during this rare ‘black swan’ event. We are battling an enemy that cannot be seen or be reasoned with. Despite our best efforts, all we need is one perforation in the loosely amalgamated social containment efforts. Such cases continue to amaze and frighten us – Patient 31 from South Korea.

What then is the solution? We need to follow all the recommended activities by governments – self quarantine, social distancing, keeping our hygiene in top notch, enrich ourselves with hope and prayer to withstand these tough challenging times. There are a gazillion home remedies that we can apply even today – keep ourselves hydrated, drink immunity boosting teas, proper diet control, good sleeping and mental peace. Despite all these efforts, we may or may not be successful. But true leadership is in being proactive – i.e., by preventing.

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